Archaeologists have uncovered 59 mummies in sealed sarcophagi and nearly 30 statues of ancient gods in the Egyptian necropolis of Saqquara in the last weeks. The find helped confirm “the hidden wealth” of the site and “its significance as one of Egypt’s most important and longest-lasting burial places for over 3,000 years”, according to the world’s leading Egyptologist, Salima Ikram.
“Saqqara is known as one of the richest necropolises of Egypt, with tombs here dating from c. 2,800 B.C. into the Roman era,” Ikram, a Distinguished University Professor and head of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo, told SYFY WIRE.
The mummified bodies are believed to be those of high-ranking officials, including priests, based on the decorations on their coffins, that could have been buried more than 2,600 years ago. Along with sarcophagi, researchers have also uncovered 28 statuettes of necropolis’ main god Ptah-Sokar, the dual deity responsible for both craftsmen and the dead.
They also have come across a bronze figure of Nefertum, a god that was worshipped through the Old Kingdom until the Late Period of ancient Egypt. His statuettes was also decorated with precious stones, Egypt’s authorities revealed following the discovery in October.
“Nefertem was a deity associated with creation and the offspring of Ptah and Sekhmet, so rebirth and resurrection rituals as well as new year festivals would have associations with him,” Ikram explained. “There are hundreds of statues of Ptah-Sokar in museums in Egypt and across the world. Some of them would have papyrus rolls inscribed with funerary texts placed within cavities in the body or base.”
The statuette of Nefertem apparently belonged to Priest Badi-Amun, according to an inscription on its base, who could have been one among those mummies uncovered by archaeologists.
For 5,000 years of Egyptian history, the Saqqara site served as a necropolis for Memphis, the country’s first capital. Located just around 30 kilometers south of Cairo, it still hosts at least 11 pyramids and hundreds of tombs of kings and other officials from the first and second dynasties. It is also a home to the legendary Step Pyramid erected for the third dynasty’s king Djoser.